Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
ZIMBABWE’S Cheetahs flew into Italy yesterday morning to take part in this weekend’s Roma tournament, which will be the last batch of competitive matches before they head off to the United States for the Rugby Sevens World Cup next month.
Coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba will be without, at least, six key players who have featured for the Cheetahs in the build-up to the World Cup as they have remained home to play for the Sables in the Africa Gold Cup assignment.
Hilton Mudariki, Ziyanda Khupe, Connor Pritchard, Njabulo Ndlovu, Ngoni Chibuwe and Lenience Tambwera are unavailable for the tour of Italy.
Nyamutsamba is now hoping their participation at the Roma sevens will get his Cheetahs back in the groove.
He said the tour of Italy was also significant in that it could help them identify possible replacements in the event that those who are with the Sables fail to eventually make it for San Francisco for one reason or another.
“Seeing that this is the only tournament before the World Cup, it is key for us in that it kick-starts us and at the end of the tournament, hopefully, leaves us with the much-needed momentum in World Cup preparations.
“At the same time this tournament also gives us the much-needed game time. With six of players that were in our last tour playing for Sables this weekend, the tournament also opens up a chance for other players to come in and show what they can offer, during an international event.
“I am confident that after this tour we will be in a better mental and physical focus,” Nyamutsamba said.
The Cheetahs coach said he was hopeful that the newboys he has on the Italian tour would gain a lot from the tournament.
“Tarisai (Mugariri), Mkululi (Ndhlela), Nelson (Madida), Shingi (Hlanguyo) have not been exposed to international sevens and this tour will be a good learning curve for them,’’ Nyamutsamba said.
The Cheetahs are also still hoping they will get some Government support before they leave for the United States, amid revelations that they have appealed to the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation for backing.
Nyamutsamba’s men have somehow not received the kind of recognition that a World Cup-bound team deserves apart from just being crowned the Team of the Year by the Sport and Recreation Commission at the ANSA awards last year.